Outsiders win European Blitz and Rapid Championships
Hrant Melkumyan of Armenia won the European Blitz Championship while Georgian Baadur Jobava finished first in the Rapid tournament. The events were held 16-18 December in Warsaw, Poland.
The top boards in Warsaw | All photos courtesy of the official website
The European Blitz and Rapid Championships were for the seventh time held in Warsaw, this time in the Palace of Culture and Science right in the center of town. Main sponsor was MetLife Amplico, the Polish branch of an international insurance company.
By Thomas Richter
Both tournaments followed a similar scenario: the winner wasn't one of the pre-tournament favorites, and finished on top only in the final rounds. Armenian Hrant Melkumyan won the blitz event after Armaggedon tiebreaks, while Georgian Baadur Jobava created a 0.5 point gap with the field in the last round in the rapid event.
As IM Stanislaw Zawadzki wrote on behalf of the organizers,
the [blitz] tournament was developing according to hosts hopes
– but didn't finish with a full happy end from a Polish perspective. Wojtaszek was leading for most of the event; then Bartosz Socko took over in round 10 with a 2-0 victory against his compatriot. However, Socko's reign was short-lived: two rounds later he lost 0-2 against Melkumyan (part of the Armenian's 8.5/10 finish) and eventually fell just short of the medal ranks. The trio Dreev-Wojtaszek-Melkumyan shared first place with 20/26, and tiebreaks had to decide the colors of their medals.
The venue was the Palace of Culture and Science in the centre of Warsaw
Dreev first got a "bye" as he had the highest Buchholz score; thus Wojtaszek and Melkumyan faced each other a few minutes after drawing their mini-match in the final round. In a must-win situation with White, Wojtaszek never got a tangible advantage and eventually blundered a rook missing a sudden mating threat. In the final Melkumyan had the white pieces against Dreev and gradually outplayed him, then again benefitting from a blunder by the opponent (28.Nd7?). The 22-year old Armenian, still relatively unknown, is a "student" of Levon Aronian. At his own request, he plays board 1 in the German Bundesliga ahead of his teacher; his current 4/7 score includes a win against Gashimov. In due course he may become part of the Armenian national team.
Hrant Melkumyam - often a second of Levon Aronian, but now successful himself
Judit Polgar "obviously" won the women competition and finished in overall 6th place – thanks to a 2-0 win against Nepomniachtchi in the final round which put the Elo favorite down to 41st place. Other 0-2 losses by the Elo favorites included Nepomniachtchi's earlier match against Wojtaszek, Movsesian's matches against Dreev and 5th finisher Korobov, and Bacrot's match also against Korobov.
Judit Polgar "obviously" won the women competition
From the blitz event, only the tiebreak games are currently available:
European Blitz Championship 2011 | Final standings (top 50)
|18||20||Jones, Gawain C B||GM||ENG||2635||17.5||180.50||212.50||6|
|31||22||Howell, David W L||GM||ENG||2633||17.0||179.00||209.00||6|
In the rapid event, 18-year old Sanan Sjugirov (a "product" of the Elista chess school) was in sole or shared lead from round 7 onwards. After round 12 he got company from five other players. In the final round two top games, Erdos and Sjugirov quickly drew their game; Korobov-Movsesian was also drawn with no questions remaining in a pawn ending. Jobava broke through with a kingside attack against Volokitin, concluding his 4/4 finish to secure the gold medal.
Seven other players entered tiebreak matches for the other medals; certainly again a pleasure for the Polish organizers that these included GMs Kempinski, Mista and Olszewski who came from behind with wins against higher-rated opponents. Kempinski beat Nepomniachtchi, or maybe Nepomniachtchi (for whom there seems to be a curse on the 13th round, cf. the blitz event) beat himself.
Mista and Olszewski won with the black pieces, the former from a rather dubious position.
After some dramatic tiebreak games (should one even try to comment on Armaggedon games?) Sjugirov eventually got silver, and Kempinski bronze.
Third, first, second in the rapid: Robert Kempinski, Baadur Jobava and Sanan Sjugirov
As far as some of the pre-tournament favorites are concerned, two not-so-famous K's jointly put an end to the hopes of Bacrot and Nepomniachtchi who lost their respective games against Kempinski and Korobov. Korobov's final 4th place probably was the best combined blitz-rapid result. Shirov started with 6/6 including several games in his typical style. Then the future winners extinguished the fire on the board (0.5/2 against Jobava and Sjugirov). In the remaining rounds, Shirov conceded too many draws against lower-rated players and came half a point short of a spot in the tiebreaks. Wojtaszek lost against Kempinski and Erdos, whose 5th place was another surprise of the event. For Naiditsch it just wasn't his weekend.
The rapid game viewer includes the key games mentioned above, and a few other examples of what characterizes rapid chess also at a rather high level: upsets, opening catastrophes and the occasional blunder (see games 4, 11 and 27 below).
European Rapid Championship 2011 | Final standings (top 50)
|25||23||Howell, David W L||GM||ENG||2633||9.5||94.00||110.50||9|
|37||22||Jones, Gawain C B||GM||ENG||2635||9.0||96.50||112.50||7|
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